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Virtual Dressing Room to Increase Sales During COVID-19

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COVID-19 has changed the way people worldwide behave daily, and nowhere is this felt more keenly than in bricks-and-mortar retail. For decades, retailers have been trying various customer engagement strategies to bring people in and let them browse samples and linger to their heart’s content. But the pandemic has made nearly all those experiences risky and undesirable. Personal safety wins out of the desire to try on clothing, jewelry, makeup, and other wearable products.

Increasingly, with COVID-19, retail businesses are turning to virtual dressing rooms as an alternative for their customers.

A virtual dressing room allows a user to upload a video of themselves and then renders an Augmented Reality image of the person modeling their perspective items.

Certain sectors of the retail industry have already been embracing Augmented Reality dressing rooms, most notably the cosmetics and jewelry industries. But many more retail sectors are adopting virtual dressing rooms, and the pandemic has accelerated the process greatly.

Artificial Intelligence in Virtual Dressing Rooms

Like many digital business applications, virtual dressing rooms are driven by recent advances in technology, from AR and VR to Artificial Intelligence. In fact, technology is advancing so quickly that one of the barriers to adoption is simply that many people don’t realize how good virtual dressing rooms can be if they’ve never tried one before.

But more and more consumers are trying them and generally like their experiences. As a result, the virtual dressing room market looks to have staying power even after COVID-19 becomes less of a clear-and-present threat. By 2027, the virtual dressing market is projected to be a $10 billion industry.

Virtual Dressing Rooms Becoming Mainstream

For several years, certain retailers have toyed with virtual dressing room solutions and related apps, although frequently, these have been limited in scope and with mixed results. However, the combination of technology-driven increases in quality and the pandemic driving customers away from physical store locations has led to a significant uptick in virtual dressing room adoption.

Global retail giants like Macy’s and Adidas have led the way in virtual dressing room implementation, with many smaller retailers following suit.

Amazon is also involved in virtual dressing room development, as its online retail model continues to gobble up market share.

For many retailers, embracing virtual dressing rooms is a necessity right now. They’ve blocked off their physical dressing rooms and forbade customers to handle merchandise like they once did out of fears that these behaviors will spread COVID-19. And many customers simply aren’t coming out to stores regardless.

In today’s retail landscape, the virtual dressing room represents an opportunity to recapture some of the lost business that’s crushing most retailers’ profit margins.

How Virtual Dressing Rooms Work

From a technical standpoint, the two broad technologies pivotal to the virtual dressing room are Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. These are huge domains that stretch far beyond the scope of a virtual dressing room solution, and it’s useful to understand just how these technologies apply here.

The virtual dressing room process begins with video capture of the person who will be trying on the virtual item. Often, the recording device is a mobile smartphone. A smartphone is an ideal vehicle because it contains both the camera to capture video and a screen to display the AR image of the person/body part with the wearable item modeled.

The video is parsed by human pose estimation algorithms that identify a range of key points or locators on the human body, which allow the application to understand the contours, size, and spatial location of the person. Often, AI deep learning routines are used to make these determinations. The accuracy of these AI-driven processes can be far superior to a human programmed process, allowing for far greater fidelity in virtual dressing room development.

Once the body’s dimension and location are fixed, the application then appends the item of clothing or accessory to the image on the screen, allowing the user to model that item virtually in a 3-D, photorealistic display.

Pros and Cons of Virtual Dressing Rooms

Like any business or technological innovation, virtual dressing rooms have their advantages and disadvantages when compared to the traditional model.

It’s important to grasp that virtual dressing room technology continues to develop and evolve, and as the process continues the industry will change. Former drawbacks may be mitigated, and advantages may heighten as supporting technology improves.

But even as some problems may fade in relevance, others may develop. The following pros and cons represent a snapshot of the short — and medium-term projections for the virtual dressing room landscape.

Benefits of Virtual Dressing Rooms

The most obvious benefit to a virtual dressing room is giving the customer the ability to sample and model products remotely. But for this to be worthwhile, the AR rendering has to be realistic enough to be useful. If a user doesn’t feel comfortable with the image they’re seeing, a virtual dressing room is a failure.

Fortunately, the science of capturing the human body and rendering it in a virtual environment is one that engineers and developers are devoting massive amounts of time and resources to. While virtual dressing rooms aren’t the most important or lucrative application of these processes, we reap the rewards of that development and innovation.

The real game-changer is the implementation of artificial intelligence in the video capture and rendering process. Deep learning algorithms can estimate and display the user’s full body, face, head, hands, feet, or any other specific body area with rapidly increasing clarity and accuracy.

This is taking us toward the point where the average shopper regards a virtual dressing room as roughly equivalent in quality to the physical experience. Once we’ve achieved that benchmark, the traditional dressing room is nearly entirely obsolete.

Potential Drawbacks to Virtual Dressing Rooms

Many of the current drawbacks to virtual dressing rooms are temporary issues likely to be addressed in the coming years.

People are excellent judges of the human form, especially their own. If a virtual dressing room image has minor imperfections, this can detract from the immersive experience and leave a customer uncertain about whether they can trust what they’ve seen.

In some cases, virtual dressing room solutions are close but to quite up to the highest standard, meaning that customers would prefer traditional ones if given a choice.

During this pandemic, virtual dressing rooms receive a bump simply by being the only realistic option for people looking to minimize their COVID-19 risk. However, at some point in the next year or so, countries will begin to get the pandemic under control via the release of vaccines.

At this point, the question is whether virtual dressing rooms will offer a seamless and accurate experience, one good enough to keep people using them when life can return more to normal. This is where the industry will be continuing to focus.

One final potential drawback worth mentioning is that virtual dressing rooms can pose a data security issue. The process captures users’ face and body data and background images from wherever the user is filming.

It would be possible for a developer to engineer a virtual dressing room solution that pulls biometrical data and geolocation data from its users. That data could then be used to create profiles of those users, allowing third parties to use this info in a variety of ways.

This particular concern is a universal one in our increasingly digital world, far from unique to virtual dressing rooms. But the video data captured here is particularly intimate, and users may have special concerns.

In 2020, the advent of COVID-19 has reshaped the retail landscape in a seismic way. Consumers avoid stores and businesses find the physical process of trying on and sampling wearable items riskier. In this environment, virtual dressing rooms are being adopted more and more.

But the virtual dressing room concept is more than just a quick-fix workaround for the pandemic. Hand-in-hand with the rise of online retail, virtual dressing rooms have the potential to supplant the traditional dressing room. As AI technology matures, a larger group of consumers will likely find themselves using virtual dressing rooms even afterlife returns more to normal.

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How Smart Homes Power the Post-Pandemic Energy Evolution

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Many of us have been cooped up inside for months in the face of the ongoing pandemic, transforming our living spaces into all-in-one offices, gyms, and schools. As a result, those lucky enough to be working remotely and earning expendable income during the “new normal� have been investing in upgrades for the home.

The upgrades for the home is evident.

The home’s upgrades are evident in the embrace of connected devices that transform today’s humble abodes into tomorrow’s smart hubs. We are scrambling for new gadgets that are energy efficient and have automation, convenience, affordability. We want devices that give us enhanced health and wellness.

Energy efficiency shows great promise to simultaneously cut energy bills and carbon emissions in the post-pandemic world.

With the world’s climate crisis at a tipping point, this moment could be the trigger that sees millions of homeowners install advanced monitoring to optimize energy use.

Today’s shift towards smart energy products sets us on the right course for an evolution following COVID-19. Still, it is one that must be pursued relentlessly and backed by cybersecurity best practice.

Working From Home Or Living At The Office?

The world we know is vastly different from the world we knew. Offices have moved online; supply chains have been turned upside down, international routes have largely ceased.

People, meanwhile, have been ordered indoors. About 30% of the global population has been put in lockdown with different levels of nation-wide quarantines, forcing many to spend more time at home than ever before.

The mass uptake of working from home or living at the office all depends on your perspective.

Working from home is subsequently changing how people interact with their living spaces. Without the possibility of vacations or lavish dining experiences — many homeowners are spending what disposable income they have on home upgrades.

No lavish upgrades right now.

However, the upgrades are not simple furnishings or decorations but rather smart devices that bring comfort and efficiency.

Smart thermostats, smart lighting, smart garden sprinklers – smart everything – are becoming commonplace inside the contemporary home.

The ongoing lockdowns are predicted to spur the global market for smart home devices to 18% growth this decade.

A Peek Inside Today’s Smart Energy Home

There are two ways to look at contemporary smart energy inside the home. First, there are standalone devices. These products serve specific efficiency purposes, like regulating the power flow to outlets or automatically turning off lights.

The most popular of these smart additions remain heating and cooling upgrades since air conditioning consumes approximately 40 percent of any building’s electricity.

For example, the German smart thermostat company Sorel enables remote app access to display home temperatures and humidity in real-time. You can even select the operating mode and target temperatures, monitor the correct functioning of the system. The thermostat configures a time program, and activate holiday mode.

Standalone products are all about identifying waste and shifting consumer habits.

Second, there are devices that monitor energy production and manage the home’s overall energy use.

Home energy management solutions are much more holistic with a ‘hub’ communicating between devices that produce and store energy in the home. This includes solar panels, battery storage, and devices that use energy within the home – appliances, heating.

In some cases, these energy systems allow for two-way communication between energy providers and end-users. The communication can result in huge energy and cost savings since the end-user can take advantage of different time-dependent pricing schemes such as time-of-use tariffs, critical peak pricing, and real-time pricing.

The Bigger (Greener) Picture

Perhaps the best part of smart home energy is the elegance of the solution. Smart home products do not try to restrict the homeowner’s energy consumption, nor do they try to force them into doing it alone. Instead, these products often use machine learning to track the homeowner’s lifestyle and find ways to cut bad energy habits.

Regardless of whether homeowners choose to integrate standalone devices or larger smart energy systems, the desired result is the same: to cut unnecessary energy use. The insights and efficiencies offered by smart homes can cut home energy costs by 40 percent. This is an especially important reduction when the economy is down, money is tight, and housing accounts for one-third of the average budget.

More important than the financial savings are environmental savings.

Humanity finds itself on the climate precipice, so many have warned about, with experts calling for global carbon-based emissions to be cut in half by 2030. Housing contributes to one-third of global emissions, and its evolution – or not – will make or break such ambitions.

Thus, this one-two punch of economic and environmental benefits presents a powerful case for further smart home integration in the post-pandemic world.

Why Cybersecurity Matters in Smart Energy

As with any expansion to connected devices, however, it is imperative to consider cybersecurity. Connected devices are infamous for their weak security protocols, and this risk only multiplies if hackers gain access to any home’s energy production or management capabilities.

There are too many hacker horror stories to count – from children being harassed through Amazon Ring to vulnerable connected cardiac devices – and these security blindspots are much more pronounced when dealing with something as integral as energy.

Industrial energy companies have been the target of cyberattacks during this pandemic. In many cases, hackers using phishing emails have sought to gain access to the computers of remote workers and disable company systems for a ransom.

But security experts warn that about a dozen state-sponsored actors have been trying to infiltrate US networks and meddle in the nation’s energy supply.

Homeowners, therefore, must enter into smart energy with best-practice cybersecurity solutions.

One way to do this is by selecting devices that ensure commands between the client and the device are not intercepted by any third-party, such as peer-to-peer. Sorel, for example, uses this private connection type in its heating system to ensure the smartphone app communicates without interference.

Moreover, the peer-to-peer connection offers the company minimized risk since end-users only manage their data on their device.

The reward of smart energy for the home far outweighs the risk when safeguards are in place. Therefore, conscious homeowners who do their research and protect themselves should not stop taking the smart energy plunge.

Planning for Tomorrow Starts Today

While it is tough to find silver linings in moments like this, they are there. Smart energy devices are growing within the modern home, household power bills and carbon emissions are falling as a result, and consumers are learning more about energy responsibility and conservation.

These are all very positive developments, and they are developments that would not have happened as quickly without the pandemic.

Additionally, smart energy evolution is far from over. Smart home products offer many other benefits in addition to energy efficiencies, and these encourage further uptake.

For example, smart products can enhance home security, offer telemedical functions, assist the elderly, and bring lifestyle benefits like connectivity.

Smart energy tech is only predicted to grow further as the market of other products matures, such as electric vehicles, vehicle-to-grid, solar power, and battery storage, all of which can be integrated into a smart household energy system.

In addition to these positive trends, homeowners are increasingly willing to pay for smart home solutions. A recent study of New York residents during lockdown found that most are willing to pay for home energy management systems.

The study found relatively high intentions to adopt home energy management systems among the more than 600 surveyed, with nearly 80 percent willing to pay in general and about 30 percent willing to pay more than $5 per month for such energy features.

Reevaluation of energy within the modern household could not come at a more important time. Energy is a sparse resource and one which contributes significantly to our collective carbon footprint.

While most people implementing smart energy solutions are likely more interested in the monetary savings, their environmental importance must not be overlooked when the world has just ten years to halve its emissions.

Today’s shift towards smart energy products sets us on the right course for an evolution following the pandemic, but it is one that must be pursued relentlessly and implemented entirely.

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How Big Data Analytics Address COVID-19 Concern in Healthcare Industry?

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The Coronavirus Pandemic has spurred interest in big data to track the spread of the fast-moving pathogen and to plan disease prevention efforts. But the urgent need to contain the outbreak shouldn’t cloud thinking about big data’s potential to do more harm than good. Here is how big data analytics address COVID-19 concern in the healthcare industry.

Big data’s blind spots could lead public health authorities astray, diverting critical resources from proven containment methods such as aggressive testing.

They could also lead to draconian restrictions that disproportionately impact the rights of those under- or misrepresented by the data. In Israel, the government’s cell phone location-tracking program has caused complaints that the authorities are erroneously confining people to their homes based on inaccurate location data.

While the capacity of big data to help curb the coronavirus outbreak is, at best, uncertain, its risks to privacy are immense. Governments and companies have cited the anonymization of personal data as a key privacy safeguard, but multiple studies show that this may only delay rather than prevent the person’s re-identification.

Location data is particularly vulnerable since it can be combined with public and private records to create an intricate and revealing map of a person’s movements, associations, and activities.

Impact of Big Data Analytics in Healthcare on COVID-19 Outbreak

COVID-19 has arrived with consequences that are grave and unsettling. Big Data lies at the heart of efforts to comprehend and forecast the impact that Coronavirus will have on all of us.

The near real-time COVID-19 trackers that continuously pull data from sources around the world are helping healthcare workers, scientists, epidemiologists and policymakers aggregate and synthesize incident data on a global basis.

There has been some interesting data resulting from GPS analyses of population movement by region, city, etc., which ultimately helps provide a view of the population’s compliance — or lack of compliance — with social-distancing mandates.

There are many opportunities to make the use of Big Data more impactful in situations like these as a society and as an industry, though no one yet been able to effectively leverage the power of Big Data in search of a cure.

Ideas such as creating large scale COVID-19 Real World Evidence (RWE) studies that pull data from a variety of real-world sources — including patients now be treated in the hospital setting — could help accelerate the development of treatments in a more patient-centric and patient-friendly way.

Global Big Data Analytics in Healthcare Industry Landscape

According to Goldstein Market Intelligence research, the market size of big data analytics in the healthcare industry was valued at USD 16.90 billion in 2017 and is projected to reach USD 68.20 billion by 2025 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 18.6% over the forecast period.

Based on types of analytics type, the descriptive analytics segment is anticipated to account for the largest share of the big data healthcare analytics market and continue to dominate the big data analytics in the healthcare industry during the forecast period.

Based on geography, North America is expected to dominate the market followed by Europe during the forecast period, due to a rise in advancements in IoT and an increase in the demand for analytical models on patient information for better service delivery, government policies.

Substantial Upsurge in Demand for Financial Analytics in Healthcare is Driving The Global Big Data Analytics in Healthcare Industry

Every day, people working with various organizations around the world are generating a massive amount of data. The term “digital universe� quantitatively defines such massive amounts of data created, replicated, and consumed in a single year.

The digital universe in 2017 expanded to about 16,000 EB or 16 zettabytes (ZB) and would expand to 40,000 EB by the year 2020.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced the “All of Us� initiative that aims to collect one million or more patient’s data such as EHR, including medical imaging, socio-behavioral, and environmental data over the next few years. EHRs have introduced many advantages in handling modern healthcare related data.

The advantage of EHRs is that healthcare professionals have an improved access to the entire medical history of a patient. The information includes medical diagnoses, prescriptions, data related to known allergies, demographics, clinical narratives, and the results obtained from various laboratory tests.

Major factors driving the growth of big data analytics in the healthcare sector include substantial upsurge in demand for financial analytics. There is an increased demand for discovering structured and unstructured data existing in the healthcare industry, declining costs, and accessibility of big data software and services. There is also augmented adoption of novel technologies for data analytics in healthcare industry transformations, worldwide.

Big Data Analytics have already made a significant impact on grounds related to healthcare: medical diagnosis from imaging data in medicine, quantifying lifestyle data in the fitness industry, to mention a few.

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5 Post-Pandemic Changes to Expect in the Workplace

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Disrupting businesses in every sector of the economy and infecting nearly 7 million people at the time of this writing — with 400,000 deaths globally. The coronavirus pandemic that sprung up December 2019 has had negative effects on businesses across the world, and the economy as a whole.

The stay-at-home orders that have been mandatory in several countries have caused our work lives to be affected in so many ways, from working in open offices and interacting with coworkers daily to working from home and having to rely on video conferencing apps for effective communication.

These many changes in our current work-life have left many of us wondering whether it’ll have any lasting effects on our work-lives once the pandemic is over and the current lockdown measures are eased. How will how our new work lives proceed from here?

The many effects the pandemic will have on our current work-life include:

  • Higher Prioritization of workers’ health.

The current attention that employee well-being has been garnered recently by organizations and employees themselves will surely increase. We will surely see employee health, wellness, and well-being being of greater importance in a post-pandemic situation.

We can predict more sick day allowances and health initiatives like the full health checks and examination of employees before they enter their workplaces.

After the pandemic and for a short period of time, signs may be posted to remind everyone to wash hands and perhaps limit how they give handshakes and hugs, and to maintain personal space.

To avoid overcrowding, keycards and sensors will monitor your whereabouts throughout the day and alert you whenever you’re in close proximity to another individual.

In the long run, contact-tracing apps for co-workers may also become part of the work-life experience to avoid the spread of future diseases and infrared body temperature scanners before access to the office building. These contact-tracing apps might even show areas with high coworker traffic similar to apps like

  • Remote work

The role in-office collaboration has to play in a company is overwhelming as it is important for building personal bonds and relationships between coworkers and boosting employee productivity, it is also essential for the creation of company culture, but what is more important is the safety of an organization’s employees.

The importance of remote working at a time like this has shown as many organizations have looked too remote working as a means of sustaining their businesses and to keep them up and running.

In a post-pandemic situation, it’s likely that we see the retention of remote working as a means of working for non-essential workers by organizations. However, office and in-house collaboration are surely not going away and higher-ranking workers may still work in-house.

  • Restructuring of office spaces.

The fundamental design of office workspaces and offices will surely be altered. More personal space, elevator capacity limits, and demarcating spots to stand in elevators to limit physical contact.

More space between desks with coworkers sitting on every other seat, partitioning may be installed to reduce the risk of spreading diseases, fewer chairs in conference rooms, private cubicles or offices, there’s an endless list of how the overall design of the office space might evolve in a post-pandemic situation.

  • Business travel and conferencing.

The coronavirus pandemic will definitely have a lasting effect on meetings as a whole, we should expect fewer conferences and curtailed travel plans in the post-pandemic era. Essential meetings will still hold, but ones with lesser importance will be moved to emails, phone calls, and video conferences.

We should expect employees will only have physical meetings when a project is crucial and cannot be done via video conferencing. Conferences, meetings, and conventions will be halted for the foreseeable future with meetings that aren’t necessary would now be done with video conferencing.

  • Work shifts and office hours.

Organizations will have gradual returns and might not require most people to come back until there’s widespread testing, treatment, or a vaccine. Work shifts might be put in place to ensure there’s a limited amount of employees in the workplace at any given time.

Limiting the number or set of people required to come to the office has been important for employee safety as it reduces the chances of them getting the disease. Only requiring essential workers to come to the office might be the norm in a post-pandemic situation.

In Conclusion

How business around the world is going to be changed due to the current global pandemic is unknown as we cannot predict the future with a 100 percent accuracy but by making educated guesses we might know how the impacts of the pandemic might shape our work life.

Workplaces may have significant changes in the long run, these may include new seating arrangements and the addition of building materials that discourage the spread of germs.

In order to reduce the risk of spreading future diseases, it’s a great time for new technology and innovation. We will need to be provided with access to rooms and elevators without employees having to physically touch a handle or press a button. Innovations in automatic door sensors, automatic sinks, soap dispensers, and maybe even voice-activated elevators.

Measures will surely be put in place to reduce the spread of any future diseases and pandemics to guarantee the general public and employee safety.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels

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